Bridgerton Just Can’t Pull Off a Climax

Warning: Spoilers for the second part of Bridgerton season three ahead.

As Bridgerton enters its third season, a pattern has emerged: the show excels at building anticipation and tension, but struggles to deliver a satisfying climax. Audiences don’t sign up for a romance only to be left wanting more from the final moments. It can be frustrating when a carefully constructed relationship leads to a lackluster finale. However, Bridgerton’s third season manages to alleviate some of this disappointment by focusing on the development of secondary characters and exploring the stories of the other Bridgerton siblings. This takes some of the pressure off the main couple, and the overall enjoyable and exciting aspects of the show help to compensate for the less than stellar culmination of their relationship.
Similar to its previous seasons, this latest installment of Bridgerton is a charming and whimsical journey filled with an abundance of sugary silliness, a touch of Barbie feminism, and occasional puzzling structural flaws. Each season of Bridgerton has its own share of imperfections, with season one being a chaotic mix of racial politics and reproductive anxieties hidden beneath the show’s Regency period fantasy. On the other hand, season two took a more cautious approach to the racial aspects of its universe but faced criticism for not featuring enough steamy scenes and for struggling to navigate the intricate emotional dynamics of its sisterly love triangle. In both cases, the season began with a promising premise but ultimately failed to fully explore the complexities of its own emotional stakes in the latter half.
Season three of the show is poised for success. The characters of Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington have been given ample time to develop in the previous seasons, making their potential match-up all the more intriguing. Adding to the tension is Penelope’s secret identity as Lady Whistledown, the anonymous author of a scandalous gossip pamphlet that holds significant influence over high society. Nicola Coughlan’s portrayal of Penelope has endeared her to fans, as her character evolves from a shy, supporting role to a captivating love interest. Luke Newton’s portrayal of Colin is equally charming, as he portrays a character torn between longing and frustration when it comes to Penelope. Colin despises Lady Whistledown for the hurtful things she has written about him and his family, and Penelope’s secret is a ticking time bomb that is sure to explode in dramatic fashion. Viewers can anticipate an explosive and captivating storyline in season three.
Until the last few episodes, everything seems to be progressing smoothly, like a new carriage on a sunny spring day. Colin and Penelope, having dealt with the emotional aftermath of their traumatic experience with a balloon, embark on a digital exploration that brings them closer to marriage. While the mysterious Lady Whistledown lingers in the background, Colin and Penelope share a beautiful and tender moment of intimacy in their future home. It seems like everything is leading up to an exciting and satisfying conclusion. However, there is a concerning lack of development when it comes to Colin. Unlike Penelope, who has a hidden life and ambitious aspirations for social influence, Colin’s journey to Europe was underwhelming. He received less mail than he had hoped for and resorted to seeking comfort in a brothel. It is unclear what his true passions and goals are, perhaps he aspires to be a writer.
He was introduced suddenly in the premiere, but despite being a wealthy man with ample free time and the freedom to publish anything, he finds it difficult to write. He dons a large great coat reminiscent of Mr. Rochester and casually walks around with an unbuttoned shirt, attempting to convey a flirtation with masculine angst in the style of Brontë. However, his sadness comes across as unconvincing at best and downright comical at worst.
This issue does not stem from Bridgerton’s chosen storytelling setting or its focus on wealthy aristocrats. In this fantasy world, where money holds little significance and societal norms are constantly changing, the problem lies in the structure itself. Without money or class concerns, Colin lacks any obstacles to overcome. He is in love with his neighbor, who reciprocates his feelings. He possesses ample resources, social status to withstand scandal, and minimal responsibilities. As the most sought-after bachelor of the season, he seems to have it all. Therefore, when the inevitable fallout from Penelope’s secret identity reaches Colin, the betrayal and sadness should be evenly felt by both parties. However, the imbalance in emotions feels irritatingly one-sided. In an ideal scenario, when two romantic leads face challenges, there should be a sense of equality.
In a clash between two parties, it is important for the audience to be able to empathize with both sides and understand the perspectives that are causing the conflict, even if it is obvious that they will eventually resolve it. However, due to Colin’s lack of personal development throughout the season, viewers are primarily just anticipating his self-improvement.
As expected, the reunion between Penelope and Colin is far from joyous. Despite their unhappiness, they proceed with their wedding, which only intensifies the tension between them. It seems they are destined to be trapped in a deeply unhappy marriage. However, Bridgerton hesitates to fully embrace this angry wedding scenario. Colin smiles warmly at Penelope as she walks down the aisle, which seems lovely for a couple trying to make things work but detrimental to the romantic plot. Does this mean they are now okay? Have they reached some sort of agreement? Not quite, as Colin reverts back to his anger towards Penelope after the wedding. The resolution comes when she publicly confesses to being Lady Whistledown in the finale, although they barely discuss it. Penelope is fully aware that there are still problems ahead, but there is no cause for concern. They have a baby, Colin publishes his book, and everything is magically perfect.
Despite the disappointing outcome for Polin, the third season of Bridgerton remains a captivating and enjoyable watch. This is mainly due to the transfer of the unrealized potential of the Polin storyline to compelling side characters and the promise of future seasons. While season three should have focused on Polin, it truly belongs to the Featheringtons, especially Polly Walker’s Lady Featherington. She effortlessly steals every scene she is in, portraying a mix of cruelty, pragmatism, fondness, exasperation, sadness, and love, all while maintaining impeccable comedic timing. Alongside her, the two other Featherington sisters shine, making them the undeniable stars of this season.

By the conclusion of the season, one’s overall impression is that it was a regrettable chaos yet one cannot help but eagerly anticipate more.

In its endeavor to expand the world of Bridgerton and explore the stories of multiple family members simultaneously, the series has successfully embraced the necessary narrative changes to transition from a romance novel series to a television show. It has also deviated enough from Julia Quinn’s original books to establish itself as a distinct work rather than a lackluster retelling of the source material, which is always a crucial benchmark for any adaptation. A Bridgerton series should be able to accomplish both: embrace ensemble storytelling while also capturing the complete satisfaction and meticulous structural balance of a romance novel. Unfortunately, season three falls short in achieving this, but Bridgerton remains too enjoyable to even consider parting ways with in the near future.